Dear Xinyue

My humblest apologies, dear Xinyue.

I will never quite manage the linguistic circus that is your name.

For this poor, unworldly American, your name is a land unknown, with pitfalls and misunderstandings whenever I open my mouth. Where I come from we pronounce our X-es like this:

ECKS.

The -in- is easy, since we have that preposition. IN. Except I’m a recent transplant from Georgia, so I try and make it three syllables:

ee-ya-en.

Now, the -yu- seems like a nobrainer. Yu- probably sounds like our word YOU, right?

yooouuuuu.

…but then there’s that pesky -e on the end. What to do with this? Your dear American teachers, even with years of linguistics, conferences on pronunciation, and workshops on addressing the sociopolitical aspects of the Chinese undergraduate in the US university system under their belts, can’t agree. Those of us fluent in languages like Spanish and Portuguese will deftly tack on the “eh” sound, like the grandpa in the park who didn’t quite catch what you said.

ehhh.

Ecks-ee-ya-en-youuu-ehhh.

What’s that? Did you sneeze?

Oh, sorry. You’re saying your name?

Tsin-yuh.

Tsin-yuh?

The vigorous nodding indicates to me that I have, by imitation, pronounced what years of higher education has failed to teach me.

So, Tsin-yuh, forgive me. I will sporadically go back to the eighteen-syllable version of your name, as I have irresponsibly forgotten to write the pronunciation down in IPA symbols.

Sure you don’t have an English name?

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5 Responses to Dear Xinyue

  1. antropologa says:

    I once had a friend named Ye. You’d think that name would be easy to say. I assure I really have no idea how it is pronounced, except that I never, ever got it right.

  2. faemom says:

    A for effort. I have an English tongue. As a Spanish speaker, you would laugh as you heard me butcher the simplest of Hispanic names when I worked for the GSA. Luckily, they could never get my name right, so we were all even.

  3. KathyB! says:

    I think that people of different cultures and languages appreciate the sincerity of your effort – not the accuracy of your pronunciation. As Faemom so aptly stated: A for effort!

  4. insider53 says:

    I wouldn’t get it right either. It is beautiful. Different cultures can teach us so much if only we let them.

  5. incognitomom says:

    Evenshine, I feel your pain. I’m married to a Chinese man. I can’t correctly say any of the Chinese names in his family including my own son’s Chinese name. I try but my American tongue just can’t get itself around those sounds. My husband, while born in Canada and raised in the US, can speak Chinese with the correct accent. Fortunately, they all have English names. Besides I feel a little better knowing that my Chinese sister-in-law has, according to my husband, horrible Chinese pronunciation. So, if she can’t get the correct accents and pronunciations how can we non-Chinese be expected to get it right. 😉

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